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how to know when it’s time to end your relationship

I first want to say that I clearly am not a professional, and only you truly know your relationship!

But after getting requests a while back to write about how to go through a breakup, I thought it may be helpful to chat about signs I saw in my old relationships that made me realize it was time to move on.  A lot of times, there may not be any glaring red flags so you just continue to move forward with the relationship because nothing is “wrong.” And I will be the first to say, hindsight is always 20/20 on this one because sometimes have to just trust your gut because in the moment you think you’re over analyzing or certain things don’t feel like “that big of a deal” and you’re not going to end your relationship because of them.  I’ve also talked with some girlfriends who have been through similar situations so I just thought I’d share my perspective. I’m first going to share about my two long-term relationships and how I knew it was time to move on, and in the next blog on this topic I’ll share how I knew Stephen was different/the one.

Alright guys, this is kind of a long one so brace yourself!

Before Stephen I was in two long-term relationships, both lasting between 3-4 years. I will be the first to say, they were very different.

The first one was from when I was a junior in high-school to a junior in college. This was definitely my “first love” and felt like we had amazing chemistry from the start. In the beginning (like most relationships) things were great. Even when he went off to college that fall (I was a year younger) we stayed together, saw each other a couple times a month and talked all the time. A year later we still had great chemistry, we had exchanged “I love you”, and I was going off to college so we would be closer distance-wise..I mean, things were looking great!

But one thing I started to notice as time passed is that he would be very fickle. One day, week, month he was “all about me” and then he would be much more distant the next. I also noticed that our highs were really high and our lows were very low. We would be over the top in love when we were together and then all of the sudden he would be so distant the next day. It was almost like two different people. It got to the point that after about a year or so of being together, that we developed one of those “on and off again” relationships. This continued for the next 2+ years.

So for 2+ years I let this pattern continue. Keep in mind, we met when I was 17 and he was my first serious boyfriend so I was clearly very attached and didn’t know much else. At the same time, I really did love him and when things were good they were good. But I didn’t realize that this wasn’t how a great relationship should operate, so I let it continue. Without getting into it too much, he always struggled some with social anxiety and what at the time I thought were just mood swings, so I always thought he was just “misunderstood”. He was a more private person and pretty closed off so the fact that we were so close made me feel special. I felt like I was different. So I continued to justify his behavior and continued to be in this on and off again relationship.

The straw that finally broke the camels back was after years of this back and forth, I was visiting him for his birthday and he said that he had loved me (I hadn’t heard him say that in 2 years) and that he knew we should be together, etc. I was elated. I was like FINALLY! This is what I’ve been waiting all this time for. When the weekend ended, I went home and I remember so vividly we were talking on the phone the next night, and I had brought up what he said. And I still remember he replied back and said, “I never said that.” He straight up denied anything he had said the day before. I remember being like, am I a crazy person?! I definitely did not imagine it or twist his words around. Anyway, I remember being on the phone call and finally being like we’re done–forget you know me, delete my number, de-friend me on Facebook (LOL), but we’re done. After TWO YEARS, I needed something that drastic to happen to realize like hmmm maybe this isn’t how a relationship should be operating!

So some takeaways/red-flags looking back:
-Relationships that have “high highs” and “low lows” are probably not a good sign for a healthy long-term relationship
-There shouldn’t be any fickleness in a relationship –you shouldn’t have to convince the person to be with you
-If you’re going through breakups every few months, that’s not normal! How would you ever survive being married to them? (and I get that you’re not necessarily thinking of marriage with everyone but you either date someone and break up or you get married, so if you don’t see it working out long term and you’re getting hurt in the process then what’s the point?!)

I also will say, without going into too much detail for the sake of being respectful, I found out years later that he actually was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. It honestly broke my heart. Looking back, all of the mood swings and fickleness, and even our last encounter started making so much more sense. And obviously not saying that anyone who has these tendencies in a relationship is struggling with something from a mental health perspective–I mean, maybe “he’s just not that into you” for another reason haha, but either way, not necessarily a situation you want to be in regarding a long term relationship.

Okay, so long-term relationship #2. Like I said earlier, this relationship was very different from the first one. They were honestly night and day–thank God!

Honestly, I have nothing bad to say about this relationship…which is why ending it was so difficult and confusing. We dated for about 4 years, we lived together part of the time, and overall we had a very healthy relationship. Not to say that we didn’t have issues because no relationship is perfect, and obviously our relationship ended for a reason. However, there were no big red flags or big differences that made me question whether we should be together.

The majority of our relationship had been long-distance but we would see each other every month or two, and had lived together for a of couple summers, and had moved in together (more permanently) for a while. But I had then decided to go back to nursing school and needed to start taking my pre-requisite classes so I moved back in with my parents in Wilmington. So we were doing long-distance again, and I remember we had a visit planned where I would fly up to see him the following week. The entire week before I went, I just felt like something was “off.” I couldn’t pinpoint it because everything in our relationship was “fine” –I felt like I was just overthinking everything. I mean no relationship is perfect but there were so many great things about ours. Everyday before I left for the trip I just had this gut feeling that maybe this relationship just wasn’t “meant to be” but I couldn’t point to anything tangibly wrong so I just thought I was overanalyzing it. I decided to just see how the week went…maybe we had just been apart for too long and needed to spend some time together?

When I got there though something still felt off and as the days went by, I felt like he was acting differently (more distant) as well. Finally one night we both just had a conversation. The conclusion we came to? I do love you but I just don’t know if we’re as happy as we ought to be.

This was definitely a tough pill to swallow especially when nothing is tangibly wrong and you’re just following your gut. But we had said, if we were meant to be together it would happen but right now if we were both feeling this way, we didn’t need to be together. Because of that, I knew it was the right decision in the moment but I also knew it was what I needed to do for myself because after we decided to break up I had this tiny sense of relief. Don’t get me wrong–I was devastated and I’d have my moments were I would just cry because I was losing someone who felt like a best friend, but the fact that I had that tiny feeling of relief made me know that this breakup needed to happen. I needed to be on my own at least for the time being.

Well, being on my own didn’t last long because one month later I met Stephen and the rest is kind of history (more on that with the next blog). However, some takeaways here. If you have a gut feeling that you can’t shake….listen to your instincts. I remember when I was having these feelings, my mom shared with me that before meeting my dad she was with someone for 8 years (EIGHT YEARS!) and they had even bought a house together. But as time passed she thought–I don’t think this is the person I’m supposed to be with. Sometimes we can’t pinpoint anything that is wrong per say but we just know in our heart that this isn’t the person we’re supposed to be with forever. So if you’re going through that, don’t dismiss those feelings. You don’t want to be rash and make any drastic decisions in the moment but at the same time, you should sit with those feelings and acknowledge that they are coming for a reason.

Again, every relationship is different and only you truly know your relationship. I just wanted to share my experience in hopes that it may be helpful or bring you a sense of peace if you’re going through something similar xxC

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